Chunking – the teacher divides a program, task, topic, list or process into small chunks to make learning more manageable.
If there were a trifecta of education strategies, it would be scaffolding, modelling and chunking. These 3 strategies are the cornerstone of all effective teaching programs - they work hand-in-hand to help students develop their skills and knowledge.
Scaffolding and chunking are often confused as they are very similar and are commonly used together. Scaffolding involves gradually removing support and guidance until the learner can independently complete a given task. On the other hand, chunking is dividing a larger task into more manageable separate ‘chunks’. Dividing a challenging or overwhelming task into small components means each component can be given due attention. A good analogy is the bewildering prospect of painting an entire house. For most people, this would be too large a job to even bother attempting. However, by painting one room at a time, it feels much more achievable.
One advantage of chunking is that difficult tasks can be divided into ever smaller chunks to identify the specific component that is causing the problem. For example, a task can be divided into 10 chunks. 9 chunks are completed with relative ease. 1 chunk is causing difficulties and is therefore divided into 10 additional chunks. Of those 10 chunks, 8 are easy and are quickly completed. The final 2 chunks are divided into 3 more chunks each (6 in total) which are completed with the support of the teacher. Additional practice activities are provided to address the specific problem. Now imagine if this task was not chunked into small components. The student may lose confidence in their abilities believing that they ‘couldn’t do it’, when in fact it was only a tiny aspect of the overall task that they struggled with.
The student may lose confidence in their abilities believing that they ‘couldn’t do it’, when in fact it was only a tiny aspect of the overall task that they struggled with.
Chunking is similar to scaffolding in that it can be implemented with various time horizons. Programs of study (often called units of study), can be as short as a few weeks to as long as a school term. Units can be divided into weekly chunks followed by lesson-sized chunks. More often however, chunking is used as a day-to-day strategy to help students divide and conquer a small task that would otherwise seem impossible. For example, the teacher notices that a student is struggling and is becoming progressively agitated. The student might lack content knowledge, or they may not have the metacognitive skills to overcome issues of this nature – in other words, they do not have the mental tools to effectively approach the task. From the student’s perspective, the problem is too hard to even bother starting – they do not even know where to begin or what to do. In this case, having the student divide the task into several distinct chunks is likely to be effective. Then, each chunk could be resolved in turn, starting with the easiest. More difficult chunks can be further divided into smaller chunks. Students can be taught these types of skills and reminded that only a small part of the task is causing their issue – otherwise, they are doing well.
More often however, chunking is used as a day-to-day strategy to help students divide and conquer a small task that would otherwise seem impossible.
Hint: technically speaking, chunking refers to the way in which a larger number of items can be recalled if they are first grouped (into chunks). i For example, you may only be able to recall 10 random items from a list, but if you chunked 30 items into 3 chunks of 10, you may be able to recall all 30. Chunking is basically a memory trick. When applied to the education setting, chunking can be used as a memory aid for various tasks such as memorising a vocabulary list. For most teachers however, chunking describes the process of dividing tasks into ever smaller tasks.
Adam Green is an advisor to government, a registered teacher, an instructional designer and a #1 best selling author. He is completing a Doctor of Education and was previously head of department for one of the country’s largest SAER (students at educational risk) schools. Adam is managing director of ITAC, an accredited training provider for thousands of teacher aides every year.
Source: Teaching Skills and Strategies for the Modern Classroom: 100+ research-based strategies for both novice and experienced practitioners. Amazon #1 best seller in the category of Classroom Management.
The introductory teacher aide course covering all the basics of working in a school.LEARN MORE
The industry standard TA course with a focus on disabilities and disorders.LEARN MORE
Save time and money by completing ITAC's popular Teacher Aide Combo.LEARN MORE
Be sure to ask your provider for a sample of their resources and assessments before enrolling.LEARN MORE
Government funding available Australia wide (conditions apply).
Interest free plans from $15 - no hidden fees; includes all resources.
Free learner guides, audiobooks, e-books, live webinars & lecture library.
Australia’s only integrated course structure means finishing sooner.
Australia’s only true Teacher Aide Combo – saving time and money.
For the CHC40221 Certificate IV in School Based Education Support.
Friendly trainers with years of experience in local schools.
We visit every learner on placement to help improve their practice.
So you can be sure that the course is right for you.
Supported, self-paced online mode or class-based from 1 day per week.
Learn the best practice skills that schools now demand.
Links with thousands of schools around Australia.
The Institute of Teacher Aide Courses is the go-to provider for nationally recognised teacher aide courses. Around 1 in 2 students choose to study Australia's most popular TA course with ITAC.